Russian Professional League set for big expansion?

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    This article was in the Australian media recently. I’d like to know everyone’s take on it?

    Force on the Russian front

    Saturday, June 9, 2007

    Controversial side payments to players at the Western Force are linked to an ambitious plan for a rugby union super league in Russia, in which Wallabies may be required to give coaching clinics in Moscow.

    The Herald understands a proposal — drawn up for the controversial Perth fuel technology company Firepower — involves bringing Russian players and coaches to the Force’s rugby academy, sponsored by Firepower.

    What makes the proposal unusual is that Russia is considered a third-tier rugby nation by the International Rugby Board, ranked along with such lightweights as Portugal, Namibia and Morocco.

    Russia failed to qualify for the past four Rugby World Cups.

    Yet part of the plan is to establish Russia as a full member of the IRB executive council within four years and create a cross-border competition called the EurAsia Cup by next year. The Russian SuperLeague involves eight clubs, with a target of 12 to 16 clubs by 2011 with average attendances at games in 2006 being 3285.

    «The potential is high and there is no reason why Russia should not become a major force within what is the second largest team sport in the world,» the proposal states.

    It is unclear if complete details of the proposal are known by the board of the Western Force and by the Australian Rugby Union.

    Western Force spokesman Tom Baddeley said: «I am not aware of [the Russian proposal] specifically but what I am aware of is that there have been in discussions about Rugby WA becoming a centre of excellence for second- and third-tier rugby nations getting involved with our program.»

    Any proposals for hosting foreign players had centred on a planned new facility that would be shared with other sporting codes and the local Institute of Sport, he said.

    The proposal was drawn up late last year as part of Firepower’s sponsorship of the Rugby Union of Russia (RUR). The RUR says other sponsors are Nemiroff, Deutsche Bank, Renasissance Capital, British Airways and DHL. Firepower is also a major sponsor of the Western Force.

    Firepower, whose fuel pill is under scrutiny from authorities in Western Australia, has a joint venture business partnership with one of Russia’s most controversial businessmen, Grigory Luchansky.

    Luchansky is a dual Russian-Israeli citizen who has reportedly been the subject of intense scrutiny by Interpol, Britain’s MI6 and Israeli law enforcement. He has at times been banned from entering Canada and once was denied entry to Britain and the US.

    Firepower chairman Tim Johnston told The West Australian newspaper in June last year he had signed a $400million deal with a group of Russian refineries.

    Johnston is understood to be seeking to list his company on London’s Alternative Investment Market. The listing has been postponed several times since March last year.

    Johnston recently bought the Sydney Kings basketball team for a reported $2 million. Firepower is also a major sponsor of South Sydney rugby league team.

    The proposal drawn up by Russian rugby officials suggests that young players from Russia would study at the Firepower Rugby WA Academy and «Firepower coaches and players» would conduct coaching clinics in Moscow.

    The Herald understands this is a reference to players at the Western Force who are receiving side payments from Firepower, including Matt Giteau, the country’s most expensive recruit.

    Giteau is believed to be one of six «Firepower ambassadors» — all Wallabies players — who were unveiled by Johnston when he accompanied the team during a tour of South Africa in February.

    That announcement caught the club itself by surprise, according to Force chairman, Geoff Stooke. «There were player arrangements that came to our attention that took us quite by surprise,» he told the Herald last week.

    «There was a note passed around in Africa which talked about the overall business of Firepower, the products they were developing and distributing and these players would be ambassadors and it detailed who they were.»

    Some of the ambassadors were approached directly by Johnston, by-passing player managers.

    The Australian Rugby Union last week launched an investigation into player contract negotiations involving the Western Force after it was revealed by the Herald that some were in breach of ARU protocols.

    The Western Force’s aggressive policy of attracting star players has long drawn suspicion from the ARU and other Super 14 clubs. It has been central to the team’s rapid improvement. The club rose from wooden-spooners last year to the second most successful Australian team this season.



    Being avid follower of the other code of football rules (he-he), I don’t know much about rugby, but what confusing me is reference to 8-team Superleague, whereas in scoreboards I see three conferences with total of 15 teams. I take, the Top League is one below Superleague then?

    Anyhow, it’s nice to see rugby in Russia getting more serious, coming out of the dark and shaking its semi-amateur elitist status. And watching Tri-Nations Cup on the federal “Sport” TV-channel right this days, shows that rugby is making big steps in its exposure in our country.



    Krasny Yar again invites foreigners (the CIS is not counted)
    This time from France
    Already there were players from South Africa
    In the past year from Fiji (at all have not impressed)
    Let’s look…


    Петр Драконы

    The news is actually from June 2007 so not very recent. Last year’s league was sponsored by Firepower, not sure at all about this one.


    Петр Драконы

    sorry, haven’t seen the date of the initial message.

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